We’ve started something big

WFM's Amethyst Circle raises over $1 million, grants 27 scholarships

JMU News

by Jamie Marsh


“This is powerful, ladies. We are powerful.” Amethyst Circle Founder Vonya Alleyne (’93) started the official announcement during the Women for Madison Summit’s One Ama-ZING! Evening on May 19. To a room of high-spirited cheers and applause, Alleyne shared that the 2021-23 Amethyst Circle members surpassed their $1 million goal. “Together, we have given $1,333,750! Our first-of-its-kind, women-led scholarship initiative is an enormous success — because you have taken a stand.”

The generosity of these 200 women has resulted in 27 new scholarships, providing $20,000 per student, $5,000 per year renewable for up to four years. Over the weekend, Alleyne introduced three of the scholarship recipients to the group: Eliana Diaz-Aceituno ('24), a biochemistry major from Harrisonburg, Va., Karlee Tomlinson ('25), a communications major from Virginia Beach, and Trystin Umphrey (’25), a biological anthropology major from Chesterfield, Va.

“My time at JMU has been life changing,” Umphrey told her supporters at Saturday’s summit  luncheon. “I’m sure many of you found yourself here, and now I’m becoming myself here. This circle has opened the door for me.” Umphrey is currently part of a JMU research team excavating Woodrow Wilson's birthplace in Staunton, Va., to explore the probable location of a slave quarter. After graduating, she hopes to pursue archaeological work in Europe. 

Tomlinson shared personal details of her life story with the women, highlighting the challenges of being the first in her family to attend college. “At JMU, I felt this rush of welcoming energy immediately. I am so thankful to each of you,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m flailing here, but I want to thank you for helping me find my life and pursue my passions. I wouldn’t be able to do it without people like you.”  Tomlinson is already paying it forward; she’s part of the Harrisonburg-area branch of Operation Smile, helping children in other countries afford life-changing surgeries.


“This is why we give,” Alleyne told both recipients. “You. You are why we give.” 

Join the amethyst circle

As the Amethyst Circle begins its second biennium, there are opportunities for new members to join, says Women for Madison Executive Director Cannie Campbell. “In a world brimming with challenges, we are a beacon of hope. We will repeat this success by raising another $1 million and providing support for 25 more students,” she explains. “Our sisterhood is alive, vibrant and powerful. And we’ve started something big at JMU!”

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Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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